Pictet Asset Management, a SwF100 billion ($76.6 billion) institutional and wholesale arm of Pictet & Cie, is entering the Asia ex-Japan space to market to regional investors and distributors, as well as set up local fixed-income capability, says Renaud de Planta, Geneva-based managing partner at Pictet & Cie and CEO of the asset management unit.

The firm has hired Amy Cho, previously head of North Asia business development at First State Investments in Hong Kong. She will begin next week as Asia ex-Japan head of Pictet Funds, the unit that sells products to distributors such as insurance companies and other banks, as well as head of North Asia institutional marketing.

And the firm is transferring its global fixed-income head, Rajiv de Mello, from Geneva to Singapore to establish a new capability in managing Asian bonds.

De Planta explains Pictet Asset ManagementÆs business model has been to concentrate in niche specialisations, including emerging market equity and debt, micro-cap stocks and sector investments, although it also has expertise in broader areas such as European fixed income and global equities.

The firm prides itself on its international character: de Planta notes that only 20% of its assets under management are sourced from Swiss institutions. And 92% of AUM goes to specialist mandates. The firm's AUM has tripled since 2000 in part because of this focus.

Pictet Asset Management already has an established presence in Japan, where it employs 45 people and is the third-largest foreign supplier of mutual funds after Fidelity Investments and Goldman Sachs Asset Management, says de Planta. And the firm has global relationships with most of the top private banking platforms active in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.

Now the firm would like to build a four person investment team for Asian fixed income in Singapore, including de Mello. ôWeÆre among the top-five houses in emerging market equities, and we want to be in the top five for emerging market debt,ö de Planta says.

ôThere is a huge market developing in Asian fixed income, both for Asian and for global investors. WeÆre not the first in this space but weÆre ahead of the pack.ö He adds the additional hires should be in place within two months.

Furthermore, Pictet Asset Management will add another four people to support Cho, located in both Hong Kong and Singapore.

De Planta says eventually the firm wants to break into the Asian retail funds market but this requires building a brand first. In the meantime, Cho will be targeting the regionÆs pension funds, corporations, insurance companies and central banks. De Planta believes central banks in particular will be interested in PictetÆs European fixed-income expertise, as these organisations look to diversify away from US dollars.

Cho left First State in a recent shake-up that saw the firm consolidate its Hong Kong and Singapore hubs under Lindsay Mann, the Singapore-based CEO. She has also handled business development at HSBC Investments in Hong Kong.